Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Moral Government.--No. 8.
Exodus 20:12. 'Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.'
I. Reasons for this commandment.
1. The parents have been instrumental in giving their children existence.
2. Children are naturally dependent upon their parents.
3. Their parents love and protect them, and provide for them.
4. Their parents are their natural instructors and guides.
5. Their own well being demands that they should honor their parents, because it is in accordance with the laws of their being, and with the great law of gratitude.
6. The virtue, and of course the happiness of society, requires that children honor their parents.
7. The good of the world demands that children honor their parents.
8. The parent is the natural protector, and of course governor of his children while in a state of dependence.
9. The parents cannot protect and govern their children, unless they are respected and honored by them.
II. What is implied in this requirement.
1. This requirement implies that the parent practically recognize his relations to the child; for if he cast the child out helpless in the street, and refuse or neglect to recognize his relation, the true spirit of this command cannot require the child to honor him as a parent, but simply to regard him as a fellow being, and to treat him according to the universal law of benevolence.
2. It implies, then, that the parent be at least decent in a moral point of view.
3. That he require of the child that only which is consistent with the universal law of benevolence and right, that he do not deny the child liberty of conscience, that he do not attempt to prevent his doing his whole duty to God, himself, and his neighbor.
4. It implies that the parent protect, provide for, and govern the child, upon the principles of right reason, so far as his circumstances and ability will allow. These things being implied and taken for granted, it follows --
III. That the true spirit and meaning of this requirement --
1. Prohibits the least feeling of disrespect.
2. Every kind and degree of ill manners.
3. All trifling with the feelings of parents.
4. Every species of murmuring, self will, and disobedience.
5. All inattention to their wants and necessities, when they are old or infirm.
6. It requires the most perfect benevolence towards them.
7. Complacency, so far as their characters are right.
8. The love of gratitude, so far as they have been obliged and benefitted by their parents.
9. All that obedience of heart and life which is consistent with the highest perfection of family order, love, and happiness.
10. A cheerful and prompt obedience in all things not inconsistent with the will of God.
11. It requires all reasonable efforts to promote the highest temporal and spiritual interests of their parents.
12. It requires reverence and respect for parents.
13. It requires that both parents and children should fulfill to each other all those duties that will, in the highest degree, promote their individual and domestic happiness, holiness, and peace.
14. It requires both parents and children to conduct towards each other in all things, in such a way as to promote the highest well being of the universe, and the glory of God.
Exodus 20:13. 'Thou shalt not kill.'
I. What is prohibited by the letter of this precept.
The letter of this precept prohibits the unnecessary destruction of life, whether of men or animals.
II. What is the true spirit of this requirement.
1. This must be inferred from the express or implied exceptions to the letter. There can be no exceptions to the spirit of a commandment, but to the letter there may be many.
2. Exceptions with respect to taking the life of animals:
Genesis 9:3. 'Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.'
Here is a general permission to kill animals for the food of man. Afterward exceptions are made, in regard to the use of certain animals as food.
Genesis 9:5. 'And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.'
Here general authority is given for the destruction of those beasts that are injurious to men. This must be the spirit of this exception, for if a beast may be slain who has killed a man, certainly it must be lawful to anticipate the ravages of those animals who are known to be destructive to human life, and to slay them before they have committed their depredations. These are the only two exceptions in respect to taking the lives of animals. The true spirit of these exceptions is in precise accordance with the declaration of God to Adam:
Genesis 1:28. 'God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.'
Here upon the first creation of the world, God gave mankind dominion over all animals. This law prohibits taking their lives, except for food, and in cases where they are injurious, and their death is demanded by the interests of human beings. In all other cases, to take the lives of animals is a violation of this commandment.
3. Exceptions in respect to the life of man:
(1.) Exodus 22:2. 'If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.'
The spirit of this exception plainly justifies taking life, strictly in self defense. It also plainly justifies strictly defensive war. If a thief might be killed for breaking into our houses at night, or in attempting to rob, or murder, certainly the spirit of this exception justifies the repelling of foreign invasions, and the defence of our families, certainly against the ravages of thieves, pirates, marauders, banditti, and mobs.
(2.) Genesis 9:6. 'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.'
This allows and demands taking the life of man, for the crime of murder.
(3.) Exodus 21:12,14. 'He that smiteth a man so that he die, shall be surely put to death. 'But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.' And --
Leviticus 24:17. 'He that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.'
(4.) There are several species of crime, for which the Law of God not only allows the punishment of death, but absolutely makes or did make such punishment obligatory.
(5.) Human life may be taken in offensive wars, when such wars are required by God. Taking human life cannot be wrong in itself, under all circumstances; for if it were, God could not authorize it. But he does authorize and command it. Cases in which it may be taken, are expressly or impliedly specified in various parts of the Bible. With these exceptions, and only with these, human life can in no instance be lawfully destroyed.
III. What is and what is not prohibited by the spirit of this requirement.
1. It does not prohibit the sacrifice of our own health and life, for the promotion of a greater good. If it did, Christ had no right to sacrifice his life for the salvation of men.
2. Nor is the spirit of this law different under the gospel, from what it was at first.
3. Nor can any command of the New Testament be at all inconsistent with the spirit of this law. The real spirit and meaning of law, is dependent on the will of no being. It has its foundation in the nature and relations of moral beings.
4. Hence God can never give two commandments, which shall be inconsistent with each other in spirit.
5. It prohibits all unnecessary taking the life of any thing that has life.
6. Especially, it prohibits taking human life, without the express or implied authority of God.
7. It prohibits taking human life, for any selfish reason whatever.
8. It prohibits taking human life, without a strict conformity to the spirit of a just and righteous government.
9. It prohibits all taking the life of any thing that has life, but for benevolent ends.
10. It prohibits all unnecessary violations of the laws of life and health.
11. It prohibits all unnecessary exposure of life and health in any way.
12. It prohibits every kind and degree of intemperance, and all unnecessary expenditure of health and life.
13. It prohibits the use of means to destroy the existence of human beings in embryo.
14. It prohibits all ill will, and all selfish anger.
15. It prohibits every kind and degree of injurious treatment, that might effect the health and life.
IV. What the true spirit and meaning of this command requires.
1. It requires human beings, under suitable circumstances, and at suitable age, to marry.
2. It requires them, within the bonds of lawful marriage, to propagate their species.
3. To encourage and promote the existence and life of sentient beings, so far as is good for the universe.
4. It enjoins entire benevolence to all beings that have life.
5. It enjoins obedience to all the laws of life and health, so far as consists with the general good.
6. It requires us to do what we can, to promote the life, and health, and well being of others.
7. It requires us to treat our own health and life, and the health and life of all men and animals, according to their relative value in the scale of being.
V. Reasons on which this command is founded.
1. Happiness is a good in itself.
2. Life is an indispensable condition of happiness.
3. The destruction and waste of life is a destruction and waste of the means of happiness.
4. The greater the amount of life, the greater the means of happiness.
5. The good of the universe demands, that life should be considered and treated as of great value.
6. As perfect and universal benevolence or good willing, is the duty of all moral beings, so it is their duty to regard and treat life, as an indispensable means of promoting individual and universal happiness.
7. This precept is plainly only declaratory of the one great universal law of love.
VI. Some cases to be regarded as violations of this command.
1. All abuse, neglect, or treatment of animals, whereby their life is shortened.
2. All sporting with the life of animals.
3. All such treatment of human beings, as tends to injure their health and destroy their lives.
4. All dueling.
5. Every unnecessary violation of the laws of life and health, either in men or animals.
6. Every unnecessary disregard of the command to multiply the number of human beings.
7. Every selfish disposition to lessen the amount of animal life.
8. Every degree of ill will or malevolent feeling toward any being.
9. All selfish anger. 'He that hateth his brother is a murderer.'